Home ownership in the UK is in decline. Between 2008 and 2016, the percentage of the population who owned their home dropped by 10%. By 2019, the UK home ownership rate had fallen to the 8th lowest in Europe, with just 65% of the population owning their own home. However, the UK is not alone, and this is a trend that has echoed across other highly developed nations – in Germany it is down to 51% and in Switzerland just 41% of the population own their own home.
By Jason Lloyd, Head of Residential at Glide Group
Whether home ownership or renting is better for a country’s population is a debate for another time. However, if the trend towards a rental-based economy continues, then it is important that property developers make the right investments to ensure that renting is both worthwhile and enjoyable for tenants, as well as profitable for operators.
That is a challenge facing providers in the Build to Rent market which is experiencing a boom. The UK Build to Rent sector had a record climb in 2020 which saw a staggering £3.7bn of capital deployed – a year-on-year rise of 34%.
In many parts of the country, soaring property prices means that renting is in higher demand than ever – which in turn naturally leads to the growth in the number of people and companies investing in Build to Rent.
The competition to attract good tenants – who now have increasingly more options – is even more fierce. Providers of Build to Rent properties therefore need to do all they can to attract – and keep – the best tenants. One key way to do this is to provide secure bespoke full fibre internet infrastructure throughout the properties.
Of course, providers are well aware of the importance of supplying an internet connection – indeed, lockdown has taught us all that a good connection is vital for everyday life, especially when working from home has become an accepted new-normal for many. More to the point – a bad connection is a major cause of frustration – a connection that seems fine one moment and down the next gets us immediately reaching for the stress ball to throw against the wall.
But the average rental home dweller doesn’t really understand what causes such vagaries in their connection. They just experience frustration. However, for Build to Rent providers, understanding what makes a good, reliable, secure connection is important. And it can become a major selling point.
That requirement naturally became even bigger when the pandemic hit in 2020. With lockdown and the boom in working from home, our internet connections became less about the speed at which we could download a movie on Netflix. Instead, it is now more about our ability to undertake home-schooling on Zoom in one room while sitting on a Teams business meeting in another.
Our internet connection became the way we taught, worked and interacted with our friends and family. Our broadband line became our lifeline.
The Build to Rent industry had to adapt quickly and for the most part responded well. According to a recent report published by HomeViews, tenants’ sentiment in the Build to Rent sector remained resolutely positive. The attention given to vital facilities – such as fast and reliable internet connectivity – were key in that.
For Build to Rent developers, investment in good internet infrastructure for their properties should be given the same priority as water, gas and electricity. Property owners aiming for the top should set the standard and deploy the latest gigabit infrastructure that can provide their tenants with hyper-fast gigabit-capable broadband available on-demand. The best way for those providers to do that is to partner with an expert who understands the capabilities and the possibilities of gigabit infrastructure.
It’s a forward-looking move because we can all see that our society’s reliance on the internet is only going to increase. The digital divide is a reality, and those without access to the best quality internet are in danger of being left behind and will certainly be disadvantaged. A Build to Rent provider will also be left behind if it fails to recognise that requirement. Choosing the right infrastructure also makes it easier and much less costly to upgrade and upscale as technology develops. The growing deployment of IoT devices and sensors dictates that the demands on fibre infrastructure will only grow and grow.
The pandemic forced a cultural shift towards remote and home-working. And while there will always be a need for face-to-face meetings and time spent in the office, many organisations have accepted that the future working environment will be far more flexible, and that home working is here to stay as part of the office routine.
So while there are lots of exciting amenities Build to Rent providers can invest in to attract new tenants – such as gyms, common rooms and rooftop gardens – if they don’t invest in advanced, reliable and high speed internet infrastructure that can grow with the times, they will soon stand out for all the wrong reasons.